Tag Archives: man-bat

Batman: The Animated Series – “Terror in the Sky”

terror in the skyEpisode Number:  45

Original Air Date:  November 12, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Steve Perry, Mark Saraceni

First Appearance(s):  None

We’re checking in on a bunch of faces from the debut episode this week. Once again, the Man-Bat is terrorizing Gotham and it’s up to Batman to uncover the identity of this creature and put a stop to it. It’s yet another tale of a human being mutated into an animal hybrid and mercifully the last for awhile. It’s weird that 3 out of 4 episodes ended up with a similar plot device, but production order doesn’t dictate air date order. And yet, these actually did all air pretty close together so I guess Fox Kids didn’t really care one way or another.

batcycle snow

I’m a sucker for these wintery settings.

The episode opens on a wintery evening at a loading dock when our old friend the Man-Bat attacks. It wrecks up the place and gives the workers there a good fright before fleeing. The episode cuts to Dr. Kirk Langstrom (Marc Singer) waking up in a cold sweat. His wife Francine (Meredith McRae) wakes up and encourages him to go back to sleep, but he’s obviously shaken up about something. Was what we just saw a dream of some kind?

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The Man-Bat has returned with some new threads.

We soon learn it was not, as the Gotham PD are on the scene. Batman is lurking in the shadows and hears enough to know he needs to go straight to Langstrom. He arrives, irate, to find a disheveled Langstrom in his lab. Batman accuses him of taking the serum once again to turn into the bat, but Langstrom insists he has done no such thing and it’s Batman’s antidote that is responsible for the creature’s return. Francine overhears everything and becomes angered herself. She takes Batman at his word, and storms off, while Batman is at least open to the possibility of his antidote being a failure. He takes a DNA sample from Langstrom to go analyze back at the Bat Cave and leaves Langstrom to repair his marriage.

Outside, Batman is ambushed by the Man-Bat as he’s mounting his motorcycle. The Man-Bat is a little different this time sporting torn up pink trousers with the remnants of a white blouse hanging around its neck. Batman tangles with the creature and is then forced to chase after it atop his motorcycle. The only thing Batman gets out of that is a busted bike when he runs afoul of a train and the Man-Bat escapes.

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Batman gets knocked around pretty well in this one.

Back at his home, Dr. Langstrom is trying desperately to track down his wife who has run off. He’s able to discover she’s currently at the airport ready to flee the city to get away from him. Batman drops in to let Langstrom know he’s run some tests and he found no trace of the bat DNA in his system. Someone else is the Man-Bat this time. An overjoyed Kirk takes off to go chase down his wife, while Batman turns his attention to another.

Batman drops in on Dr. March (Rene Auberjonois), Francine’s father and the one who originally created the serum. He’s working late and not at all happy to see Batman drop-in. Seeing him sifting through his files, March pulls a gun on Batman though he mentions it’s full of tranquilizers for some reason. Batman, hardly intimidated, disarms the doctor and demands answers. It turns out, March has remained obsessed with bats even after what transpired back in episode one. He’s continued his research in secret, though he insists he would never experiment on himself. He then recalls an incident a few days prior where Francine interrupted his work. Startled, he dropped a beaker containing his new formula on the floor causing it to shatter and create quite the mess. Francine helped him clean it up and cut her finger in the process and we have our Man-Bat. Or should I say She-Bat?

Francine_transforms

Mid-transformation shots are always a personal favorite.

Francine has successfully boarded an airplane and is suddenly not feeling so well. As the flight attendant heads off to retrieve some aspirin, Kirk makes his move. He apparently got there in time to board the plane and he tells Francine what Batman told him – he’s cured. Francine and he share a happy moment, before Francine heads off to the latrine to gather herself. It’s there the bat inside of her is unleashed, and after scaring the crap out of the passengers on the plane, she bursts through the hull.

Batman arrives piloting his trusty Batwing, and after saving the flight attendant in a rather ridiculous manner, he turns his sights on the She-Bat. Langstrom had been sucked out of the plane as well, but the She-Bat was able to snatch him out of the air. She takes off for Gotham and sets down on-top of the Gotham bridge. Batman catches up with the pair and hops out of the Batwing armed with the antidote. The only problem is getting it into Francine. The two fight and Batman is able to hit her not once, but twice with the antidote eventually bringing her back to her normal self. Miraculously, the tattered remnants of her shirt reform so she’s properly attired, and after a brief scare, her husband snatches her from the ledge to prevent her from falling. The two embrace and Batman leaves them. Stranded on top of a giant bridge.

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It all ends with a hug.

“Terror in the Sky” is basically “On Leather Wings Part Two.” The story moves at a similar pace just with the players in the game re-arranged slightly. It’s a bit fun shifting the bat persona to Francine, though the attire of the She-Bat gives it away pretty quickly. There’s some nice sound effects on the She-Bat and some neat point-of-view shots as well. The animation holds up rather well throughout most of the episode, with only few instances of ugly frames. In particular, Batman is knocked aside by the She-Bat on the bridge and he takes on a rather peculiar shape. I kind of hate that Dr. Langstrom has to save his wife at the very end from falling off of the bridge – why did we need to make this guy the hero? It just rubbed me the wrong way.

Ultimately, this is a fine episode of Batman much like its predecessor. I don’t think anyone needed another Man-Bat story, but it’s nice when a new episode contains a clear call-back to another since so much of the show’s episodes are independent of one another. Likewise, I don’t think anyone needs a part 3 either, and we won’t be getting one. Maybe there could have been another story here, especially since Dr. March is probably owed some comeuppance. I like to think his daughter disowned him and he went off somewhere to die. Oh well, we’re finally past all of these mutant episodes and next week is one of my favorites so don’t miss it!

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Batman: The Animated Series – “On Leather Wings”

On Leather Wings

The series features great title cards for each episode. I like the simplicity of this one quite a bit.

Episode Numer: 1

Original Air Date:  September 6, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Mitch Brian

First Appearance(s):  Batman, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Detective Bullock, Man-Bat, Kirk Langstrom, Francine Langstrom, Dr. March, Mayor Hill, Harvey Dent,

On this day 25 years ago, Batman returned to television with a show simply titled Batman. Almost immediately, the show came to be recognized as Batman:  The Animated Series and is even referred as such on the DVD volumes released much later. When it premiered, Batman was riding high on a new wave of popularity thanks to two Tim Burton directed features:  Batman and Batman Returns. Batman had returned to his more brooding roots and away from the camp of the television series from the 60s starring Adam West (RIP). And while the Batman of this new show would more closely align himself with Michael Keaton’s portrayal than what was featured on various incarnations of The Super Friends, it was still an animated show featured on Fox Kids that would appeal to a general audience.

Before Christopher Nolan came along, the Batman of this cartoon series (voiced by Kevin Conroy) was often cited as the preferred Batman above all others to escape the comic books. And for a great many fans, it still is. Batman:  The Animated Series tackled mature stories and treated its legendary hero with respect. Primarily the work of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, it has become a landmark for animated television and is often considered the best comic-book adaptation to ever grace a television set.

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In the series’ first episode, Batman tackles an unfamiliar foe to most of the audience.

To celebrate 25 years of Batman:  The Animated Series, I’m going to take a trip through each episode in short write-up reviews. The posts will be in production order, so even though the series premiered with “The Cat and the Claw Part 1,” the first post is for “On Leather Wings,” which was the second episode to debut. The air dates are all over the place, as Batman’s first season was a 65 episode order designed to immediately qualify it for syndication. It was successful enough that more episodes were ordered (these are The New Adventures of Batman & Robin) and WB would order a third and final season many years later (The New Batman Adventures) to pair with their Superman animated series. I intend to get to all of them, including The New Adventures, though I have no idea how long it will take me. Hopefully I can refrain from typing 2000 words about each episode in order to move along at a decent pace.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the first production episode “On Leather Wings.” This is a natural for the first episode because it’s a Batman solo adventure and does not feature a noteworthy villain who will hog the spotlight. This show very much follows a villain of the week/day type of format. There’s very little continuity from episode to episode and few callbacks, especially in the first season. This particularl episode was directed by Kevin Altieri and written by Mitch Brian. It’s sort of a surprise that Dini and Timm aren’t directly credited with the first episode, but since 65 were done at once I suppose it doesn’t matter much which is first. That and they also likely had a hand in just about every episode from some point in the development. Altieri will direct several episodes in this first season. Brian is credited as a co-creator on the show, though he only shows up a couple more times as a story writer.

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Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock, who will make many appearances in this show.

“On Leather Wings” feels like an introduction for Batman as the plot involves people confusing the villain with him and attributing his crimes to Batman. That villain is Man-Bat, a B-level villain who’s essentially a were-bat, if you will. The story calls on Batman to use his detective work to figure out who is the man behind the Man-Bat, essentially. Batman’s sleuthing skills take him to a bat exhibit in Gotham Zoo where he meets the irritable Dr. March. March, who seems to prefer bats to humans, is our episode’s red-herring though he’s clearly hiding something. Bruce also encounters March’s daughter and son-in-law, who have followed in his footsteps as bat experts.

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Fox was pretty good about letting the show depict some blood as well as guns and general, tasteful, violence.

 

Having Batman investigate a bat monster is a fun way to debut the series. We also get introduced to series mainstays Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) and Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo), and we also get a glimpse of Bullock’s distrust of Batman which will be an ongoing thing. Trusty butler Alfred is also debuted, though oddly enough voiced by Clive Revill. He will be voiced by Efram Zimbalist Jr. for all but three of Alfred’s appearances. The episode is also a nice exhibit of the show’s unique look. We get to see the Gotham skyline at night, done on black backgrounds and Batman and the Man-Bat pop nicely against it. The Batcave is also featured and we get to see Batman’s super-powered computer in action which will help him solve many mysteries through-out the series. It’s a tight little plot, which is resolved by the end in a mostly satisfying manner, though Batman seems very trusting of the bat experts to make sure this never happens again (spoiler alert – it does!) and declines bringing them to the police. In short, it’s a good episode though probably no one’s favorite. The production values are quite nice (we get some nice sound effects in particular for Man-Bat) and consistent through-out. Episodes both better and worse are still to come.

Like what you just read? Check back here every Friday, starting this Friday, for another episode recap of Batman:  The Animated Series. If you want to follow along we’re going in production order which just so happens to be how the DVDs are arranged. Individual sets can be had fairly cheaply these days, and there’s a complete collection for those with finer taste. All of the episodes are also currently airing on Amazon Prime so if you have a subscription you can watch there. I hope you enjoy reliving this series as much as I plan to enjoy writing about it.